Ice conditions hold up resupply of Iqaluit, east Hudson Bay

Midway through July, only a single oil tanker aided by an icebreaker has been able to reach Iqaluit though the sea ice that remains in Frobisher Bay, and it has yet to be able to unload.

Fuel tanker that reached Iqaluit still unable to unload

The CCGS Pierre Radisson escorts the oil tanker Havelstern to Iqaluit July 17. Tough ice conditions in area have delayed this summer's annual resupply. (@DFO_Central/Twitter)

Ice conditions this year in the Arctic are making it difficult for ships to deliver the annual resupply of fuel and goods to some Nunavut and Nunavik communities.

Midway through July, only a single oil tanker, aided by a Coast Guard icebreaker, has been able to reach Iqaluit though the sea ice that remains in Frobisher Bay.

"We had quite a bit of difficulty bringing it in," says Johnny Leclair, the Coast Guard's assistant commissioner.

Sealift ships are also behind schedule, with the MV Anna Desgagnes and the MV Qamutik now tentatively scheduled to arrive later this week.

Contrary to predictions made earlier this year, Leclair said, the sea ice in the bay has not been melting.

That, in combination with southeasterly winds, has meant that Frobisher Bay has not been able to "flush" its remaining ice. Instead, a large compacted pan of thick, first-year and multiyear ice has formed in the bay.

It's so thick that icebreakers and commercial ships alike have no choice but to skirt around it, which has led to delays.

The same ice has also been blamed for bringing two polar bears into the community last week — a highly unusual event.

The Havelstern tanker, laden with fuel destined for the city's tank farm, took several days to navigate Frobisher Bay with the help of the CCGS Pierre Radisson. Upon reaching the city, it's still been unable to unload.

"[The ship] cannot get to a secure anchorage to put its line out to fuel the community," Leclair said.  

Leclair is hopeful that the tanker will be offloaded later today.

By the end of the week, he said, two more Coast Guard icebreakers will be headed north.

Three years ago, heavy ice damaged a sealift ship making its way to Iqaluit and stranded two others at the mouth of the bay.

Heavy ice in east Hudson Bay

The Canadian Coast Guard has also re-deployed its science and research icebreaker the CCGS Amundsen to assist with heavy ice conditions in eastern Hudson Bay.

"We haven't seen these ice conditions in the eastern part of Hudson Bay this late in the season in, I'd say, two decades," Leclair said.

"There is a large patch of ice that has not melted and is creating problems for shipping."

That could delay resupply of several communities in Northern Quebec. Sealift vessels heading for Inukjuak are currently at least a week behind schedule.

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